Good artists borrow, great artists steal…

Posted on: July 15, 2015 in: Programmes>2016-17 Season>RE:Imagine

Earlier this week we announced our 2015-16 season, RE:Imagine featuring re-imagined works, musical experiences and new interpretations. In light of the big announcement and as a preview to the exciting range of events we have coming up this year, our Chief Executive Matthew Swann shared his thoughts on what audiences can expect from the series and what inspired him to programme this range of repertoire.

To quote Picasso, good artists borrow, great artists steal (although, with delicious irony, it’s likely that Picasso stole that memorable phrase from someone else…).

Musicians and artists have re-appropriated both their own material and that of others throughout history. Sometimes shamelessly, sometimes in tribute, sometimes as the creative spark that fuels their own imagination. It is a wealthy seam to mine, and RE:Imagine presents any number of musical diamonds fashioned from someone else’s base material.

When our two conductors, with our leader Alexandra Wood, and I sat down to look at this theme, we realised that the challenge was not to find enough material for a whole season, but choosing just a few of these diamonds from the wealth on offer. And within the theme itself there were so many different avenues to venture down.

In the eighteenth century and earlier, using other composers’ material, or recycling your own was common practice. Bach, that great musical inventor, was the master at this, happily pilfering original works from his Italian contemporaries Vivaldi and Pergolesi (Venice: Darkness to Light), as well as constantly reusing his own music. His music in turn has provided the source from which composers ever since have sprung new musical water – something we are celebrating with our new ‘Bach RE:Imagined’ commissions.

In the early twentieth century, making small-scale, ‘salon’ versions of gargantuan musical works was born out of economic good sense. Not everyone could afford to present an orchestra of 100+, but 15 or so was manageable, and profitable, and these arrangements give us the chance to hear these enormous works in intimate detail and setting (Song of the Earth and The Viennese Salon).

RE:Imagine also provides a departure point to explore music of great European cities, Paris, Vienna and Venice, as well as a RE:Imagined bucolic England, through the minds of Vaughan Williams and Butterworth (The Great English Songbook).

Finally, this series gives us the chance to further provoke your imagination, and each concert provides an opportunity for you to explore the wine, the words or the movements around the music, for you to create your own RE:Imaginings around our concerts. We cannot wait to share the series with you!


Find out more about City of London Sinfonia RE:Imagine series on our website at